Death Squads, The Good Shepherd, And Fr. Stanley

Death Squads, The Good Shepherd, And Fr. Stanley April 19, 2024

We need a Good Shepherd, not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We are plagued in our modern society by people who pretend to guide others but are only looking out for themselves. Fr. Stanley Rother was a priest who stood between the wolves and the faithful he had been called to serve.

The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He stands between them and the wolves. Fr. Stanley Rother was a priest from Oklahoma City who went to serve the faithful in Guatemala. Living in Guatemala at a time when guerrillas and the official military plunged the country into a civil war, he stood with his people. Once, when his name appeared on one of the death squad lists, he went home to Oklahoma. He did not stay for long, however, and soon returned to “his people” in Guatemala. His phrase was “the shepherd cannot run.”

After a short time in Guatemala, 3 men walked into the rectory at around 1 AM July 28, 1981; and fought with Fr. Rother. After overpowering him, they executed him summarily. Although his body was returned to the United States, his heart remained enshrined in Guatemala. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

Jesus carrying a sheep
Jesus is the True Good Shepherd | Public Domain

“I will give you shepherds after my own heart.” (Jer. 3:15)

On Good Shepherd Sunday, it helps to remember this promise from God to the prophet Jeremiah. He has promised to give shepherds according to his own heart. Of course, the first and best fulfillment of this promise comes in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the true Good Shepherd, the one, holy High Priest.

Every priestly action: celebrating the Eucharist, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, is a participation in Christ’s priesthood. Christ is the minister of every sacrament. He is the source of all grace that we receive through the sacraments.

Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19) and “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11.24), i.e:, an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world (Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 1).

Too often, we take these words to be poetic, but for our Church to regain her proper vigor, we are going to need men who are truly willing to offer their lives for their sheep. These are the shepherds after the heart of God, who imitate Christ who gave himself as a ransom for the many.

The Good Shepherd is courageous.

Courage is a virtue that has gone out of style. It is, however, no less necessary now than it always has been. We need men of courage who come from the same mold as Jesus Christ.

The truth is that the Christian experience of persons who are simple and humble, the spiritual enthusiasm of people who truly love God, the courageous application of the faith to practical life by Christians involved in all kinds of social and civil tasks – all these things are embraced by the priest who, while illuminating them with his priestly service, at the same time draws from them a precious spiritual nourishment. (Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 78).

The priest must be close to the people to know what is happening. He needs to do this so as to choose the proper tools to help them, while at the same time he needs to do this so as to grow himself in his own spiritual life. When the priest becomes too closed off in his own world, he becomes ineffective in his pastoral work.

The Good Shepherd leads by calling to his sheep.

Is Christ’s message arriving to the faithful? I worry about much of our language and the disconnect between what we say and what arrives to the hearts and minds of the people of our time. It almost feels like we have a vocabulary that is so distinct that it misses the intended audience far too often.

We need to learn to speak in a way that arrives at all people. This is an important opportunity for the pastors and the faithful of our Church to work together. Saint Augustine said: “vobis episcopus, cum vobis, christianus.” For you, I am a bishop. With you, I am a Christian. This is important as well for pastors to understand that while they must be leaders, they are members of the Church with the faithful at the same time.

The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

If we are going to recover a sense of what it means in this world to be Christian, we must pray for our shepherds to be men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. While we want to appreciate the work that has been done, we also want to challenge our pastors to give the best of themselves always in every situation. We must pray for shepherds who stand between the wolves and the sheep.

What do you think? Comment below.

Subscribe to the newsletter to never miss an article.

About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
"prefer a more nuanced position, but it is difficult for that to be articulated in ..."

Secularism and the Death of Dialogue
"I agree and I am a little uncomfortable with his way of presenting things. But ..."

Secularism and the Death of Dialogue
"Disqus is a strange critter, lol. But there are a lot of things I don't ..."

Secularism and the Death of Dialogue
"Your position, honestly and authentically held, is the icon of many disillusioned with graduate degrees. ..."

Secularism and the Death of Dialogue

Browse Our Archives